Volume 32, Number 1 - Fall 1992

Missouri's Gerald Massie
The State Photographer on the James River
By Carolyn Collings and Lynn Morrow

Gerald R. Massie (1911-1989) was Missouri’s first official state photographer, holding that position from 1945 to 1974. His interest in photography developed early in life as a youth in his native Clinton, Missouri, when, at the age often, he won a July Fourth bicycle race around the courthouse and as a prize, his first camera, a $1.98 Brownie. He worked as a printer’s devil on the Clinton Eye after high school eventually leaving town for work in the "big city." He carried a letter of recommendation from his former editor who wrote that he had a "good disposition that remains unruffled in times of hurry and need of speed." In 1936 he landed a night job for the Kansas City Star (Times) as a journeyman linotype operator, while doing freelance photography during the day.

Drafted in the Army in early 1942, he served during World War II with the U.S. Strategic Air Force as an aerial photographer, documenting the effects of bombing missions and taking ground news photos. In England he supervised a 22-man photo lab. During the war Massie earned a Bronze Star and five battle stars, surviving a returning bomber plan crash in England. In 1945 Massie returned to Missouri, and found a position as the state’s photographer in the newly formed Resources and Development Commission, later called Commerce and Industrial Development. One of his early assignments in 1946 was the coverage of Winston Churchill’s "Iron Curtain Speech" in Fulton, Mo. Massie quickly became a key figure in state government in 1946 when, for the first time in history, Missouri used state revenues to advertise the state nationally. In 1947, "The Great Pictures" contest co-sponsored by Encyclopedia Britannica and the University of Missouri School of Journalism, judged two of his photos among the nation’s 100 best (professor Clifton C. Edom was secretary of that competition and exhibition and editor of the book-length publication of the exhibit).

Assigned the task of promoting Missouri, Massie sent a steady stream of photographs to the Commission, and produced sixteen recreational booklets on Missouri regions, including The White River Country of Missouri and The White River Country of Missouri Map (Some 65,000 each of these two were circulated. Local historians recognize this famous series that included Mark Twain Region, Ozark Playgrounds, DanielBoone Region, Big Springs Country, Lake of the Ozarks, and more). He photographed Missouri’s natural and historic sites, parks, industry, commerce, and agriculture, specializing in many aerial photographs. To produce the Missouri regional series of booklets over a period of eight years, Massie traveled about 15,000 miles per year to take 1,500 photographs annually to arrive at some 300 quality prints. His most famous picture—"Missouri Dragon"—an aerial view from 10,400 feet of the Lake of the Ozarks, has been reproduced hundreds of times. Specialists in Missouriana will recall the caption, "Photo by Massie", seen on thousands of Missouri promotional publications.

Massie’s images appeared in national magazines and newspapers, as well as Missouri state publica-


tions, on television stations, in encyclopedias and school textbooks; publishers also printed them in foreign advertisements about Missouri, included reproductions on cake box tins, china plates, silver spoons, silk scarves, glass, postcards, and puzzles. Whenever possible, Massie implemented the old newspaper maxim, "A pretty girl has never yet hurt a picture." And to add to his interesting career, in 1956 he won a Mercury Monterey Phaeton from the Ed Sullivan Show.

Massie’s period of state service stretched across the governorships of Donnell, Donnelly, Smith, Dalton, Blair, Heames, and Bond. In his more than 28 years with the state, he served as acting director of his division three times, and at various times directed the Industrial, Tourism, Information and Museum sections. The recipient of many professional awards, he was appointed to the Missouri Academy of Squires in 1961 by Governor Blair for "his peerless photography of the Missouri scene over a long period of years." He valued correspondence from friends who appreciated his work, including "Fibber McGee and Molly" (Marian and Jim Jordan), Bob Cummings, Harry S Truman, and Thomas Hart Benton. Acquaintances all knew him for his white hair, a perpetual cigar, his news camera and his sales pitch that Missouri is the best state in the nation in which to spend a vacation or locate a business.

In late 1991 Gerald Massie’s widow, Henrietta, donated 3,500 photographs and negatives to the Missouri State Archives where it joined the large Commerce and Industrial Development Collection, heavily influenced by Massie’ s work; another much smaller Massie collection resides at the State Historical Society of Missouri, Columbia. The images in this collection represent a major effort in the preservation of Missouri’s past. (Readers who wish to use the collection should consult with archivist Mark Herndon at the Missouri State Information Center, 314-751-7299.) With this brief introduction, the Quarterly presents samples of only one theme in the Massie Collection—the famous Missouri float-fishing trips down James River, hosted by industry leader Jim Owen.

Photos follow on page 5.


This volume: Next Article | Table of Contents | Other Issues

Other Volumes | Keyword Search | White River Valley Quarterly Home | Local History Home

Copyright © White River Valley Historical Quarterly

 Springfield-Greene County Library